Parallel Practices: Making for Medicine 2016 – Learning through making – unique R&D collaborations between craft makers and medical professionals, exploring and testing the benefits of craft-based learning for science and health students, led by partners Crafts Council and Cultural Institute at King’s.
I have secured one of the Crafts Council’s Parallel Practices Residencies at King’s College London, based in the Maker Space or as it is better known in the Faculty of Natural and Mathematical Science, the Wheatstone Innovation Lab. This new space, developed for students to synthesise technological thought with making, is the brainchild of Dr Riccardo Sapienza and Dr Matthew Howard, both believe in the value of creative skills within science (see sapienzalab.org) and have created the area so students can engage in messy making, risk taking and inventiveness, outside of their taught curriculum.
I am sharing the space with glass-maker Shelley James and the two of us are supporting this culture of making by providing workshops in our respective disciplines. In parallel we are using the residency to engage in a period of research and development in order to progress our own practice. My project ‘Hacking the Enlightenment’ explores the shared history of eighteenth century automata between science and craft, and will, by colliding analogue and digital worlds; making, mechanics and user interaction; bring innovation to my enamel automata.
Week 1 of the residency (2nd and 3rd March) focused on the development and delivery of two workshops in low-tech automata making. Students from undergraduate to doctoral level took time away from the academic challenges of their studies to engage in a very different kind of experience. By experimenting with cutting and sticking, exploring converting horizontal motion into vertical using kebab skewers as axels combined with cardboard cams and followers, the students made twelve simple automatons, and not being able to fully extricate themselves from the scientific field, set about making sense of it all by articulating the mechanical process at work using scientific terminology.
The week ended with an invitation to join ‘The Robot Atelier’, KCL’s Robotic Society’s build a line follower robot event taking place the following week. The society, run by students for students for the advancement of all things robotic, are running a project where members make a robot that will follow a black line on the lab floor using a light sensor! I was sent away with ‘homework’ to purchase an Arduino Uno Programmable Logic Controller and get my head around coding!
Week 2 (9th March) was amazing, Arduino in hand, coding software downloaded on to my Mac I turned up to the event feeling very nervous, but I shouldn’t have been as the students were amazing, so free with their time and tolerant of my very limited (well actually non existent) understanding of electronics and computer coding. By the end of the day I had constructed two sets of light sensors using an Infrared LED and a Photo Diode, apparently my robot will use these to follow the line! And, not only did they work when tested but my soldering was excellent! As I left The Strand Campus sparks of an idea for new work started to emerge, but it is too early to divulge at the minute… watch this space.